Apps

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May 04, 2016

Technologies That Changed Retail

 

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In 2016, global business to consumer e-commerce sales is expected to reach $1.92 trillion. As impressive as this figure from Statista is, that’s millions of lost in-store experiences and missed customer service conversations. In an age of convenience, it can be easy to forget about what you might be missing.

Many shoppers enjoy walking down the aisles of large retail stores, checking prices and talking to people. They also like to touch the things they plan on buying. For every gained purchase online, a material purchase is lost, which has raised the stakes considerably for brick-and-mortar retail locations. If ever these stores needed a hero, it would be now. 

Who would have guessed that mobile technology could be that hero? The use of mobile technology in retail stores could save many from going out of business and help them keep pace with online shopping trends. Here’s how mobile technology is changing the retail game in a world full of online shoppers.

 

Saving Time with Retail Mobile Technology

Often, it’s faster to ask someone a question, make a suggestion, or compare two products than it is to find credible answers online. In fact, digging around on the Internet is almost more time-consuming than driving to the store in the first place.

Now, imagine all sales associates have smartphones or tablets that can locate what you want anywhere in the store. They can give you a price check, compare prices, and tell you where else you might find what you’re looking for. This is the direction mobile technology is heading, as physical retailers scramble to catch up on the super-highway. By empowering employees to help customers, mobile saves time while providing people with truly authentic service. Plus, shoppers get to walk out of the store with their merchandise in tow—no delivery time needed. 

 

Increase Productivity Among Retail Employees

Additionally, mobile technology will help retail owners save money by increasing the overall productivity of employees. In addition to customer service, mobile technology allows sales associates to manage inventories, place orders, receive shipments, take phone calls, and more. This also eliminates a mountain of paperwork and makes organizing data much less complicated. More people can do more work in a shorter amount of time.

Creating a network of employees working on mobile devices can also cut down on long checkout lines (especially during the holidays). The mobile Point of Sale (mPoS) is all about being ready the moment a customer agrees to make an in-store purchase and having an associate there to swipe the credit card. If that same customer walks to a long checkout line, they may decide not to wait. That’s a lost opportunity that’s likely to wind up somewhere online.

Shop owners can take some of those lost sales back by using mobile to capitalize on every possible sale.

The good old days we remember, when the Internet had yet become an e-commerce mecca and flashing banner ads were so bad they were good, are gone. To keep pace with all the sophisticated technology that keeps online shoppers coming back for more, brick-and-mortar retailers have no choice but to fire back with mobile.

May 01, 2016

Apps vs. Mobile Site

 

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As a small business owner, you’ve probably wondered whether to focus on making your website mobile friendly or utilizing the skills of a talented app developer. Both offer mobile marketing strategy advantages in light of industry, budget, and target audience, yet considering the amount of conflicting advice floating around, deciding which one to go with is often challenging. 

In 2013 a Compuware survey found that 85 percent of consumers enjoy apps over mobile websites. However, this hardly means one is better than the other, or that there isn’t just as huge a market for mobile sites. It’s like saying a percentage of people prefer the beach to the mountains—there’s still plenty of reasons to market mountain-based attractions. 

The decision to go with apps over a mobile website or vice versa depends on your mobile marketing strategy and related tactics.

 

Mobile-Friendly Websites

A mobile-optimized website is essentially a responsive design that recognizes when a visitor is using a mobile device and then converts the site to a version that’s easy to read via mobile. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to produce different or additional content for a mobile site, as you would have to for an app. This makes mobile marketing management a much more streamlined process, and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business, rather than concerning yourself with content all the time. 

Mobile websites arguably drive more traffic than apps, so consider your ultimate goals behind site use: are you looking to improve consumer loyalty, or increase revenue by expanding your customer base? A cross-channel site may be your best option depending on what you wish to accomplish. 

 

Apps

The main advantage of having an app for your business is that it lets you make excellent use of a tablet or smartphone’s hardware and native functionalities. Cameras, GPS, speedometers, gyroscopes, and other useful pieces of technology found on the vast majority of modern devices are easily worked into your app’s operation. 

Another advantage of apps is that they rarely require an internet connection to run. Most apps store data locally on a phone or tablet’s hard drive, so users may enjoy them even if no internet connection is available. For example, some news apps download and store content through a Wi-Fi connection so users may read about current events until the app is able to sync with another connection. 

App infrastructure and development tools are more sophisticated and user friendly than ever thanks to demand for app developers, with major operating systems offering a serious selection of frameworks for developers to work with. Most frameworks are free. 

 

Wrapping Up

Again, which one you decide to go with depends on what your ultimate marketing goals are, how big your budget is, and more factors. If you have the means and the employees to handle a mobile-friendly site and an app, why not try both and see if one offers more benefits to your company than the other. You also might find that your team is efficient enough to provide content to each channel, thus increasing brand awareness and reach. Whatever you decide, remember that it’s a very good idea to offer at least one of the two options to your target audience. 

April 25, 2016

Pet Care Goes Mobile

 

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American’s love affair with animals has opened all kinds of doors for entrepreneurs and capitalists that see the growing obsession as a way to make a quick buck. Gluten-free dog treats and luxury cat towers are certainly more common today than they were just 10 years ago, and that’s just the beginning.

 

The Rough Life 

In the U.S. alone, the ASPCA estimates that there are 70 to 80 million dogs; approximately 37 percent to 47 percent of all US households are “with K9.” As pets become increasingly integrated in our home lives, it makes sense that a slew of products, gadgets, and services would also arrive in the marketplace. The newest of these is available on your mobile device. 

One of the greatest challenges many dog owners face is balancing a healthy schedule for the dog with the need to keep regular business hours. But that’s a lot easier said than done, especially for dog owners who often need help exercising their pooches, as well as ensuring they get regular bathroom time outside. According to this article, millennials in particular struggle with this issue: they prefer the jobs and the lifestyle of urban areas, but they also seek companionship from pets. 

Hunter Reed, a Nashville-area native, is one such pet owner. Long hours at his job meant that his boxer, Bella, would be stuck at home for long periods of time without company. He would look for dog walkers on craigslist, but found that most were unreliable. Reed would ask his friends in desperation, but ultimately found the issue too troubling not to act. 

"It got to the point where you feel bad asking your friends or neighbors," said Reed.

 

Pet-Sitting App 

Reed’s solution, in collaboration with Cody Dysert and Kris Molinari, was to create an app that connected dog owners with dog walkers using similar technology to the one used by Uber and Lyft. Reed’s app is called Walkio, and it’s competing for market space with similar apps in the pet-sitting arena. 

Walkio uses a vetting system, like Uber, that requires all walkers to undergo a background check. The app handles most of the administrative work dog walkers would normal manage on their own, including payments, appointments, scheduling, and key exchanging though lock boxes. Walkio uses basic chat features to let pet owners and walkers communicate as the walker picks up, walks, and returns the dog home. 

Pricing for this service ranges from $17 to $75 depending on the length of time the dog needs to be cared for — which includes an overnight option. 

There are several similar apps already on the market for this service, including Wag!, Swifto, Barkly, and Urban Leash. Reed hopes that by focusing on the customer services of the app, and starting in the Southeast region of the U.S., Walkio can become a market leader, at the very least in Nashville.

“The tech community in Nashville is really growing,” Reed said.

Reed and his co-founders are currently looking for funding to take the app to the next level. So far, the team has been primarily self-funded; the user base is still very small.

Will Walkio carve out a niche in the Southeast? One thing is for certain: Bella the dog is likely wagging her tail. 

April 17, 2016

Mobile Marketing and the Emoji Question

 

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New research indicates that mobile marketing campaigns are increasingly turning to emojis to make their messages pop. Marketing automation company Appboy surveyed close to 9,400 campaigns on Android and iOS platforms, and found emoji usage had increased more than seven-fold year-on-year, as of March 2016. The report found e-commerce marketers and retailers were the most likely businesses to use emojis in mobile marketing campaigns.

Why are mobile marketing managers using emojis? Simply put, it’s because the rest of us do, and it’s seen as an easy way to add some color and individuality to a campaign. With so much activity happening in the world of mobile marketing, it’s highly competitive and volatile; some 800 million users got their first smartphone last year alone. Another 600 million will join them this year.

With such vast numbers, it’s crucial for e-marketers to understand who they’re trying to reach, and with what kind of message. In this context, emojis become one contributing factor to the success of a mobile marketing campaign. Used well, they set the right tone for a brand image. 

 

Using Emojis

So how do you use them in the most effective way? One of the most common mistakes brands make is to use emojis in place of text, where text would communicate more effectively. Emojis should complement your written message, not replace it, so for your first campaign, try incorporating one or two relevant emojis. This will give you a chance to feel out your audience to see if they respond well to emojis. Not everyone does!

Remember too that a constant stream of unhelpful, if fun, messages will result in irritated customers opting out of your contact list or deleting your app. Don’t get over-excited with the new plaything and start barraging your user base. Stick to the mobile marketing strategy of only issuing messages when you have a special offer to promote, or other information that will be of genuine interest. Incorporate emojis into these, rather than trying to build a new mobile marketing campaign around emojis.

A recent BI Intelligence report takes a look at mobile marketing tactics such as emojis. One of the key findings was the importance of marketers leveraging different tactics according to demographic and audience size. It’s vital to respect the personal nature of mobile messaging, and be highly vigilant for over doing it. Emojis are a good example of mobile marketing tactics that can go wrong if misapplied, but work wonders when done right.

April 08, 2016

Samsung Has Launched Its Mobile Wallet in China

 

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Samsung’s mobile wallet is making its way to China, no tunneling required. The international tech firm recently announced Chinese shoppers can now use their smartphones to pay for in-store purchases, and are therefore joining the Asian country’s trillion-dollar mobile wallet market. 

 

Partnership With UnionPay

SamsungPay was launched in partnership With UnionPay, the same bankcard company that helped bring ApplePay to life. UnionPay credit and debit cards are currently the only cards linked with local Samsung phones at this time, with up to 10 cards allowed per device. SamsungPay is available in China on the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5 smartphones. 

 

Positive Reception

Injong Rhee, EVP and Head of R&D, Software, and Services of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, said the company is pleased to partner with CUP in order to bring SamsungPay to Chinese consumers. Rhee said SamsungPay reception has so far been very positive, and the service has found success in both consumer adoption and availability. 

The EVP also stated that Samsung hopes to make the payment option available to as many Chinese consumers as possible so that “everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy the simplicity, safety and convenience of this mobile payment solution."

 

Participating Institutions

Banking institutions currently participating in SamsungPay include the largest bank in the country, ICBC, as well as China Construction Bank and China Merchants Bank. Other major institutions such as Bank of Communications and Bank of China are said to follow suit. 

 

Additional Phones

In addition to the Samsung phones listed above, the Korean tech giant noted the possibility of adding more devices, including the Galaxy A5, A7, and A9, as they were also tested in public beta. Rooted devices do not support SamsungPay. 

 

The Challenge

China’s mobile wallet industry is quite well established, making Samsung’s foray into the market a challenging one. Local services such as WeChat and AliPay are used for online shopping and transportation services among other things, and are now available for brick-and-mortar store use. Analysts recently remarked that AliPay and WeChat are so ingrained among Chinese consumers that introducing new mobile wallet options will be an “uphill battle.” However, Samsung has previously noted one essential factor working for them: the technology is applicable to a larger number of existing payment terminals. 

 

“Simple and Safe”

Samsung also believes its mobile wallet option will work because it’s “simple, safe, and easy to use,” and that it works “virtually anywhere” in China that allows consumers to swipe or tap their cards. There’s no need to unlock phones or use special apps to access Samsung’s mobile wallet, which makes it arguably more appealing than earlier incarnations requiring these steps, such as Google Wallet. 

The mobile wallet is similar to ApplePay in that it utilizes near field communication technology (NFC). Samsung’s version will also support the magnetic secure transmission technology used on standard credit card machines. 

As of the fourth quarter of last year, Samsung was No. 6 in China’s smartphone market with a 7 percent share compared to Apple’s 15 percent. It will be interesting to see how the new mobile wallet option fares. SamsungPay is currently available in the U.S. and South Korea, and should enter the UK market later this year. 

April 01, 2016

How User Behavior Causes Common Mobile Device Issues

 

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It’s increasingly evident within the mobile device industry that many of the operating issues are due to user behavior. What’s more, customer service representatives, IT support staff, and repair specialists are frequently without mobile device-specific knowledge, as well as diagnostic tools indicating whether the issue is user or hardware based. This has resulted in the return of “un-repairable” devices, making it imperative for device manufacturers and network operators to gain a deeper understanding of which issues can actually be rectified and which can’t, and to further train employees so they may resolve problems quickly and efficiently. 

 

Asia: The Highest Failure Rate

According to the State of Mobile Device Performance and Health trend report for Q4 of 2015 by Blancco Technology Group, device failure rates are highest in Asian countries. The fourth quarter of 2015 saw 50 percent of iOS and Android device issues coming from Asia, resulting in a 50 percent ‘No Trouble Found’ return rate. Social networking apps are among the most popular in apps in Australia, Indonesia, and India, while messenger apps are frequently used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. News, search, and weather apps are heavily used in Korea and Japan. 

Social networking and messenger apps are thought to cause the most issues with mobile devices in Asia rather than hardware. For example, Asian citizens who use numerous social media apps per day, and fail to close them properly, are “eating away” at their devices’ resources, including device memory, battery, and overall performance. Texting services such as messaging apps also devour device resources, particularly in terms of group chats. Such text services usually involve sending messages every few minutes, an action which injures device performance in addition to draining battery power. 

 

Europe: Device Failures Increasing Dramatically

Mobile device issues with users residing on the North American continent lowered from 27 percent in Q3 2015 to 26 percent in Q4. Europe did not fare as well, with device issues rising from 14 percent in Q3 2015 to 29 percent in Q4. App usage increased 58 percent in Europe in 2015, thanks mainly to emoji and productivity apps. For example, teens and college students favor Google Docs, Slack, Quip, and the Microsoft productivity suite. Emoji and productivity apps are considered the two app categories causing mobile device issues in Europe as well as North America, with emoji apps frequently slowing mobile devices, if not causing them to crash. 

Productivity apps such as Outlook may result in easier access to mobile email, however they often interfere with device performance due to the accessing, creating, and sharing of sizeable files. 

 

Avoidable Returns

More than 50 percent of the devices returned in 2015 were “avoidable” and subsequently placed in the No Trouble Found category. NTF devices cost manufacturers and mobile network operators about $50 to $100 per device to return them to the market as “used.” The Blancco Technology Group report noted that NTF returns cost organizations millions in 2015. 

Blancco offers numerous tips for reducing NTF return rates, including refraining from overcharging the battery, avoiding installation of numerous anti-virus apps, and “power cycling,” or shutting the device off and restarting it, at least twice a week. Turning application notifications off and avoiding unnecessary Wi-Fi use are also recommended, as is manufacturers, enterprise organizations, and carriers focusing more on customer service and proper issue diagnosis. 

March 31, 2016

Diabetes Treatment Finds Ally in Texting Services

 

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Texting services are increasingly being utilized by the healthcare industry, as they provide a number of helpful applications, such as reminding patients about appointments and sending tips that contribute to health. Text service health applications now include those relating to diabetes, with Arkansas-based nonprofit corporation ARcare using text messaging to improve its treatment services. 

 

A Valuable Educational Tool

ARcare added SMS texting services to its treatment program for diabetes patients, resulting in a cost-effective way to educate patients about the disease. “Interactive SMS” is utilized to provide patients with vital diabetes information. ARcare CIO Greg Wolverton recommends healthcare organizations focused on population health management recognize messaging tools’ role with regard to electronic health records and care coordination across numerous facilities. He also emphasizes the supreme scalability and efficiency texting services present. 

 

Increased Revenue Options

Implementing text services has been shown to help both the patient and the provider, as it offers an increase in operational revenue. For example, texting diabetic patients about their next appointments significantly reduces chances of no-shows, as most people have their phones with them constantly and look at text messages much sooner than emails. The reduction in no-shows and the ability to easily reschedule should a patient not be able to make the appointment are some of the ways text services are helping the healthcare industry financially. 

 

More Helpful Applications

In addition to its use among diabetic patients and their healthcare providers, text messaging is also increasingly used to treat smoking addiction and pregnancy issues. A recent Swedish study suggested text services make it easier to quit smoking, as the implemented text messaging program “doubled the rate” of self-reported smoking abstinence “with occasional lapses.” It also encouraged quitting cigarettes entirely, though not to the same degree. 

In regard to pregnancy issues, texting was found to help maternal and child mortality problems in Rwanda. The African country’s health workers use text services to keep track of pregnancies, report related health issues, and provide emergency alerts. The latter helps pregnant women obtain emergency care when needed. Health workers also text information about their pregnant patients’ histories for database storage purposes, let women know when it’s time to come in for checkups, and provide doctors with information about any complications. 

 

Part of the Mobile Health Movement

Diabetes, smoking, pregnancy, weight loss, HIV….texting services are part of the mHealth, or mobile health, movement for all of these, according to David Finitsis, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology and author of the February 2014 article Text Message Intervention Designs to Promote Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The article was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Finitisis found text messaging of great assistance to HIV patients, as it improved “adherence to drug regimens” among other benefits. The author remarked that the possibilities connected to text messaging and healthcare are endless, and that smartphones, tablet computers, and social media platforms provide many more avenues for treating the chronically ill. 

Is text service a huge part of the healthcare industry’s future? It certainly seems so. 

 

Is Twitter Stagnating?

 

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Twitter launched in 2006, and within a year fell into the “global phenomenon” category. The social media platform’s origin story is a bit muddled, thanks to the ousting of various creators, however the invention of the hashtag brought with it the chance to promote and comment on worldwide issues, interact with celebrities, emphasize brands, products, and services, and so much more. Yet, despite the changes Twitter made to the world of media, some argue the platform is stagnating, if not dying

Let’s take a look at why Twitter is faltering, including the issues with which chief executive and founding father Jack Dorsey is currently dealing: 

 

Losing Money

Twitter has been losing money for a while now. The social media juggernaut is currently on a $2 billion revenue run rate, and in 2015 it earned $1.4 billion but lost $539 million. The company reported that, in its last quarter, it lost $137 million on $502 million in revenue, with industry experts noting that the $2 billion rate isn’t going to do much. 

 

Not Enough Heavily Active Users

The social media platform has plenty of users, but there’s a decline in the number of people who tweet on a consist basis. Users aren’t taking the time to share the social media option with others and convince them to sign up, among other problems. Dorsey touched on the importance of helping people extract value from the service as soon as possible, which raises the issue of whether people are eschewing Twitter because it’s challenging to use or because there’s simply little interest. 

 

Slow User Growth

Another issue Twitter’s bigwigs are facing is a slowdown in user growth. The social media platform is subsequently not only losing money, but also keeping away investors. Twitter will launch new products and features in hopes of appealing to new users and investors, however current changes haven’t affected the slow user growth rate so far. 

 

Abuse Issue

Some point to Twitter as a tool for abuse or bullying. Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Mean Tweets’ segment is an example of this, as celebrities come on the show to read negative tweets about themselves, often with hilarious results. While this is the lighter side of the bullying that takes place on Twitter and other social media platforms, industry insiders say that the “abused have become the abusers,” resulting in an age of stagnation and numbness. 

 

No Longer Retaining Talent?

Peter Currie, Twitter’s lead independent director, recently commented during a conference call that Dorsey not only attracts talented people, but also keeps them. However, many of the talented folks Dorsey and his associates have hired are leaving the company. They view it as a sinking ship and put in their two weeks in order to work with companies where they can truly thrive. 

Dorsey is also a part-time CEO, which is seen as another big problem affecting the social media platform. 

Is Twitter on its way out? If so, which social media options will take its place? 

 

March 29, 2016

Volvo Plans to Replace Car Keys with Phones

 

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Swedish car giant Volvo will become the first major automotive company to introduce key-less vehicles. All aspects of car security - including access and ignition - will instead be managed exclusively from bluetooth-enabled smartphones.

Volvo is not alone in taking steps to consign the traditional metal key to history. Even cheap subcompacts are increasingly being manufactured with electronic key fobs which, though expensive to replace, eliminate the problem of keys becoming stuck or broken in ignition locks or car doors. 

The smartphone solution would work in the same way as key fobs, starting the car and unlocking the doors and trunk. It goes further, allowing friends and relatives who wish to borrow the car to be granted access electronically by receiving the key from the owner’s smartphone. Car rentals would be simplified by issuing an electronic key to the renter’s smartphone.

Volvo is looking to try out the technology immediately, roadtesting the digital keys with a car sharing firm operating out of Gothenburg airport. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with digital keys in 2017.

 

March 24, 2016

Is the Biggest Issue with Smartphones Their Users?

 

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Today’s smartphones are capable of withstanding pretty serious damage, including getting dropped many times over, being subject to dust and other floating particles, or somehow landing in the bathtub when it’s full of hot water. Phones still fail every so often, as do most products whether they’re electronically-based or not. This is quite normal, however a new survey indicates that the biggest problems with smartphones aren’t the devices, but the users. It appears not everyone is as smartphone-savvy as they might think. 

 

“No Trouble Found” 

According to a recent survey from Blancco Technology Group, as many as three quarters of smartphone hardware failures are of the “NTF” or “no trouble found” variety. The State of Mobile Device Performance and Health Trend Report: Q4 2015 outlined the top five “trouble spots” result in 39% of mobile phone failures around the world, with the camera causing the biggest issues. Smartphone cameras are responsible of 10% of hardware problems, followed by the touch screen (9%), battery charging (8%), microphone (6%), and performance issues (6%). The report’s findings are based on “aggregate, anonymized data,” according to Blancco Technology Group, and was collected by the company’s SmartChk platform. 

 

Varies By Region

Smartphone trouble areas vary by region, with North American users fussy over performance and blaming hardware issues on slow operation. This is followed by the camera, charger, headset, and microphone. Carrier signal is by far the biggest issue in Europe, followed by calling ability, camera, and Wi-Fi issues. 

 

Misunderstandings

The survey found that user behavior and misunderstandings are the cause of supposed hardware problems. For example, almost 74% of smartphones returned in North America due to “hardware issues” were labeled “no trouble found.” NTF rates are also high in Europe (71%) and in Asia (50%). Such misunderstandings about how to properly use smartphones indicates their complexities continue to baffle users and result in problems for enterprises and carriers alike. 

High NTF rates are particularly problematic for enterprises, according to the survey. 

“The ability to quickly triage mobile device issues – be it legitimate or specious—will mitigate these impacts and deliver on the promise of mobile connectivity for businesses supporting employees’ smartphones, be they corporate-issued or BYOD.” 

 

Up To Device Developers

These issues may cause problems for enterprises and carriers, however they aren’t their inequities to rectify. It’s the job of device developers to create smartphones and other mobile devices easy to use and understand. “Easy” devices won’t result in frustration...and subsequent “send-backs.” 

 

Apple Over Android

The survey also notes that Apple is currently ahead of Android in regards to user-related device problems, which found 85% of such issues came from Android devices compared to 15% of iOS devices. However, industry experts say these numbers don’t reflect the significant differences in the market share, nor the lower price points attached to most Android devices. Experts have remarked that Apple surpassing Android in this regard should be taken with a bucket rather than a grain of salt.